Minor injury? Think GP

Lakes District Hospital operations manager Janeen Holmes (left) and clinical nurse co-ordinator Jennie Burt in the resuscitation room on Monday. It is far quicker and cheaper for Wakatipu residents and visitors suffering minor injuries to seek treatment by a GP in a clinic than attend the hospital's busy emergency department this summer. Photo by James Beech.
Lakes District Hospital operations manager Janeen Holmes (left) and clinical nurse co-ordinator Jennie Burt in the resuscitation room on Monday. It is far quicker and cheaper for Wakatipu residents and visitors suffering minor injuries to seek treatment by a GP in a clinic than attend the hospital's busy emergency department this summer. Photo by James Beech.

Lakes District Hospital is urging anyone suffering minor complaints to consult general practitioners instead of the emergency department (ED) as medical staff brace themselves for the summer flood of alcohol and synthetic drug casualties.

The Southern District Health Board (DHB) is concerned more overseas tourists, plus domestic visitors and festive revellers, including up to 10,000 festival-goers at the debut Rhythm and Alps festival near Cardrona, as well as the swelling resident population, will put unprecedented pressure on the only southern ED outside Dunedin and Invercargill.

The ED of the 24-bed rural hospital in Frankton is staffed overnight by only one doctor and one nurse, although other medics are on call.

Even during the known peak times of medical emergencies - New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and January 2 - only one extra doctor and two or three extra nurses are on duty in the ED.

Compared with other hospitals, Lakes District Hospital already has the highest overall prevalence of alcohol-related presentations, a higher prevalence of alcohol-related conditions in older age categories and a higher prevalence among women.

ED staff are also seeing an increase in patients intoxicated on synthetic cannabis, especially people aged 18 to 30, and they expect an influx of emergency cases from Rhythm and Alps.

Clinical nurse co-ordinator and nurse Jennie Burt said patients on ''herbal highs'' were more difficult to treat than drunks because they suffered cardiac complications and mental health issues, often did not know what they consumed and took an uncertain length of time to recover.

Ms Burt said the type of non-urgent cases taking up valuable ED time and resources included minor cuts and bruises, sprains, colds and even sunburn.

Anyone could telephone the hospital for triage advice to see if they should visit the ED or a GP with their complaint if they were not sure, she said.

Hospital operations manager Janeen Holmes said overseas tourists went to the hospital for all levels of treatment because they could see it signposted near the airport and did not know where medical centres were.

Domestic visitors might present their injury at an ED in the belief they would be treated instantly and free of charge.

However, non-urgent patients are charged an attendance fee, which is more than a GP's bill, and patients are prioritised for treatment on the severity of their injury, not on how long they have been waiting, which can be extended at any moment and means hours spent in the hospital waiting room.


Holiday medical care

• If it is not an emergency, contact your GP, or call Healthline free on 0800 611 116.

• Queenstown Medical Centre will run a walk-in clinic on Christmas Day, 11am-4pm and New Year's Day, 9am to 8 pm.

• The surgery will operate as usual at all other times, which includes a walk-in clinic from 9am to 8pm on weekends.

• Remarkables Park Town Centre and Arrowtown clinics will be closed on weekends and holidays, as usual.

 


Holidaying in hospital

• The Southern DHB found presentations to the Lakes District Hospital's emergency department had been highest during the peak holiday months of July, August, January and December for at least the past three years.

• Presentations during December 2010 and January 2011 totalled 1232, averaging 626 per month.

• Presentations during December 2011 and January 2012 increased to 1460, averaging 730 per month.

• Presentations during December 2012 and January 2013 fell slightly to total 1448, averaging 724 per month.

• Those peak months compare with the quietest period of the year, from February to June, when presentations averaged 480 a month in 2011, 537 a month in 2012 and 561 a month in 2013.

• This year there was an increase of 163 presentations a month during January and February compared to quieter times.


 

 

Rhythm and Alps put my back out

Compo claims, New Year: Shock from going to Les Alpes and no Les there/ Broke ivory tooth eating plum duff impregnated with coin of the Realm/ Fell from chair when the Missus laced trifle with VSOP, breaking 78rpm of The Weavers' "Hey, Round the Corner, Yoo Hoo!". I blame the Off Licence.